A chicken bus (Spanish: "camioneta de pollos" or "trambilla", the latter a hypercorrection of "tranvía") is a colloquial English name for a colorful, modified and decorated bus that transports goods and people between communities in various Latin American countries, especially Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama.
The base vehicle is usually a retired North American school bus on a light or medium truck chassis. The word "chicken" may refer to the fact that the buses are often crammed with passengers not unlike a truck load of chickens, or to the fact that Central Americans occasionally transport live animals on such buses–a practice that visitors from other countries often find remarkable.
Often two young men will partner in the operation of a bus, one of whom will have his license, while the other dubs himself the ayudante or "helper". The ayudante is responsible for passengers and luggage, collecting money, and organizing the suitcases, livestock, or produce, etc. onto the roof of the bus–often while in motion. Loudly announcing destinations the bus is reaching is also a responsibility.
Some buses sport vibrant paint including the bus's name and permanent route. Often religious imagery and verbiage is also employed. Such forms of transport are completely stuffed with passengers (whenever possible) and then hard-driven to their destinations at top speed. Some countries, such as Nicaragua subsidize their chicken buses and establish maximum prices, which often end up being the de facto price for the route. Still, unlike bus drivers in Europe, the drivers are usually self-employed or members of cooperatives and keep the fares to cover (part of) their expenses, thus motivating the above-mentioned overloading with passengers.
At times tourists have reported having their bags stolen from the roof of the bus, but it is possible to pay for an extra seat to put your bags on.
- "Chicken Buses of Guatemala". Amusing Planet. 14 October 2012.
- Morrison, Tim (4 September 2004). "Hop a 'chicken bus' to rural Honduras: A trip into the countryside is a challenge but I'm rewarded with cloud forests, pristine rivers and giant waterfalls". The Vancouver Sun.
- Collins, Tracy (30 September 2006). "LETTER FROM GUATEMALA SOJOURN IN GUATEMALA; A volunteer discovers something of herself in her travels to Antigua". Bangor Daily News.
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